Top 10 dream trips of 2011
New Years resolutions, while noble and ambitious in January, seem futile by March and are completely obsolete by June. Instead of setting myself up for great personal disappointment like this past year (nope, I never learned to kite surf, nor did I manage to cutback on my high-cheese diet) I’ve decided to make a travel dream list: the top 10 places I’d love to go in 2011. If I make it to just two or three of these places I know by next December I’ll be patting myself on the shoulder saying “good on ya Soph!”
10)St. Pierre and Miquelon
for great bread and seafood on french islands in North America
Despite my best efforts to remain unimpressed and unamused, Paris has gotten beneath my skin and has staked out a permanent place in my heart, well in my belly to be more precise. At any rate I am not keen on the idea of one day leaving behind all the pain tradition, croissant aux amandes, and good cheap vin rouge. Surely I can find all these things in one of France’s many outposts right? And if we’re already dreaming, let’s make the dream perfect. Not only do I want good bread and pastries, I want it to be in North America, I want it to be on an island, and I want a low hurricane frequency (one must remain pragmatic even whilst dreaming). Enter St. Pierre and Miquelon, the last chance to stock up on french bread before making a transatlantic passage to Europe. Some, like Don Street of Cruising World magazine, would go so far as to say that the islands “produce the best French bread in all of North America. That, the excellent wine and cheese, and the duty-free beer make St.-Pierre and Miquelon a worthwhile stop for those doing the extreme northern route” to Europe.
The only place where the guillotine was used in North America, this tiny archipelago of islands is still controlled by France under the auspices of the Collectivité d’Outre-Mer (like St. Barts and St Martin). The landscape and climate is typical of Newfoundland which lies just 12 miles to the north, so a summer trip is definitely in order, or maybe fall, to check out the cranberry bogs flush with rouge on Miquelon.
For a great Travel and Leisure article about the archipelago, see cherchez la france.
9) St. Barts
for Swedish history in the Caribbean
Why choose St. Bart’s above all the other appealing Caribbean alternatives? First of all it’s French, and let’s face it the french have good staple foods: bread, butter, paté, all the essentials for a great picnic. But France wasn’t the only former colonial power to stake a claim to St. Barts. In fact, between 1785 to 1878 France relinquished the island to Sweden in exchange for trade rights in Gothenburg. I doubt there is much in the way of Swedish cultural remnants on the island but it would still be a cool to go down there and dig deep into the colonial history. Wouldn’t it be just stupendous if Sweden still had a colony in the Caribbean, where friendly blondes with sing-song voices sunbathe shamelessly in the buff?! Because everyone knows it is a Swede’s God-given right to skinny dip wherever he damn well please.
8) Road Trip: Portland, Seattle and Orcas Island
for gourmet food trucks, beautiful cups of coffee, and whale watching, respectively
Reading all these Portland food blogs has really whet my appetite for gourmet farm to table types of establishments. The quality of produce available to West Coasters is unparalleled and has organically led to one of the world’s great hubs of food worship. This reverence for food has infiltrated even the fast-food industry in the form of gourmet lunch carts like Built to Grill for cheap incredible Italian or Koi fusion for kimchi quesadillas. Next I’d head on to Seattle for coffee at Victrola that is almost too pretty to drink. Finally, I’d continue north to catch a ferry to Orcas island, the so-called “Nantucket of the west” (though perhaps a tad crunchier) according to National Geographic Adventure magazine, to see what else but the Orca whale!
7) Gothenburg, Sweden
for a friendlier, less ridiculous version of Stockholm and for a familiar sailing community.
I hold this lofty idea that Gothenburg is just as good as Stockholm in its international population, cultural outposts, and gastro-creativity but just considerably less obnoxious, though to be fair I do get a kick out of making fun of the unfathomable self-absorption of the typical Stockholmite.
Gothenburg, like Nantucket, is home to one of the world’s 11 IOD fleets (International One Design). So there is that warm feeling of familiarity. But there is also that warm feeling you get when you lay eyes on a boat full of hulking Swedish vikings…and that’s just the kind of warmth you need to get through a season on the North Sea.
6) La Gomera, Canary Islands
to hear the whistle language
On the island of La Gomera, residents have been communicating for centuries by whistling, a technique with roots in the Berber culture of Morocco’s Atlas mountains. The volume and pitch of a whistle could transfer messages across the jagged terrain of La Gomera more efficiently and swiftly than any other pre-cell phone method of communication. Today the so called Silbo Gomero language is protected by the government and taught in elementary schools in order to preserve the tradition. What a fascinating study in anthropology and linguistics this would be! Listen to the whistle on youtube.
5) Camargue, France
for wild ponies and flamingoes
This large river delta South of Arles is an ecological paradise which has remained largely untamed, with wild white horses, native long horned black cattle, and visiting pink flamingoes. I would also love to see a Provencal rodeo in this so-called “Wild West of France”!
4) The Azores, Portugal
for a whaling history linked to Nantucket and for the hydrangeas
The Azores are to Portugal what Hawaii is to California. Out in the middle of the Atlantic, this volcanic cluster of islands is the closest European outpost to America (just a 4 hour flight to Boston). A deep rooted whaling history links the Azores to Nantucket, while a similar maritime climate fosters brilliant, robust hydrangeas on both sides. Flores, like Kauai of the Hawaiian islands, is especially teeming with a flowers. For a fascinating account of the Azores relationship to Nantucket check out Nantucket Today online.
for pizza at Great Lake
As an obsessive organizer and travel planner, I periodically butcher magazines to extract my favorite articles for future reference. One such article was GQ’s 25 best pizzas in the U.S. (and therefore by extension the world,the author argued). At the top of the list was Great Lake’s Mortadella pie. Each pie is meticulously made by the chef/co-owner Nick Lessins in a tiny restaurant that seats 14 and is open only 4 days a week. As the New York times put it, Great Lake is “small by choice, whether guests like it or not“.
for the cherry blossoms
for oysters, beach-combing cows, sand dune boarding, and champagne peddling beach hawkers
Florianopolis, affectionately termed Floripa, is a large island city off the south eastern coast of Brazil. Its connection to the mainland by bridge makes it readily accessible, so much so during Brazilian holidays that standstill traffic is common. One of my cousins ran off and married a beautiful Brazilian girl named Quel with a penchant for beach-going (perhaps this is an inherent quality in Brazilians?) and she was gracious enough to tell me a little about her favorite vacation destination:
Riberao de Ilha, is a village in the South of the island and the site of the Fenaostra, or the National Oyster and Azorean Culture Festival, which takes place annually in October. In fact the area around Floripa produces 90 % of Brazil’s oysters. Just a 40 minute walk from Riberao de Ilha is Naufragados beach, a gorgeous strip of sand lined tightly by a fresh water river. Cows roam the 5 ft wide path between the two, sipping from the river and curiously inspecting beach combers.
With a coastline of 4650 miles, an ingrained beach culture has naturally developed in Brazil. Sunglasses, beer, and fruit hawkers abound. But in Jurere International, the swankiest corner of Floripa, hawkers peddle champagne and wine in front of 5 star hotels (for a charming boutique hotel in an otherwise resort filled area check out Villas del Sol & Mar ). For those who need more than champagne and parties, Lagoa da conceircao offers more athletic activities, like surfing the waves at Joaquina beach and sand dune boarding. If drinking on a boat is more your speed, head south to Armacao and catch a ride on a pirate boat around the Anhatomirim Island fortress (Quel notes that the caipirinhas on board are really good). In September and October you might even glimpse a few southern right whales profiting from the warm waters around Floripa.